Base, superstructure, Althusser and Marx

Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at
Fri Dec 14 07:09:49 MST 2001

En relación a Re: On Russia, 
el 13 Dec 01, a las 11:31, Louis Proyect dijo:

> Belief is superstructure. I am more interested in the base. I know people
> who have had an arm amputated and think it is still there. This is quite a
> pervasive phenomenon apparently.

Organicism has its limits. Historic subjects are not individual subjects. A bad 
comparison, Lou!

The way Lou Pr has dealt with structure and base in the sentence above is 
Althusserian, that is, positivist, that is, in the best tradition of the 
dichotomies of bourgeois mind that Marx exposed and destroyed in his _Theses on 
Feuerbach_. You don't need to become a mysticist goon to discover that this is 
an ultimately self-defeating approach.

True, you can have "false consciousness" (the belief that you have an arm when 
it isn't there any more), but you also have a _project_.  False consciousness 
should not be thrown to the dustbin of "wrong ideas", as Voltaire would have 
done. They are to be UNDERSTOOD AND EXPLAINED by reference to the historic 
situation of the collective subject. This reference must, indeed, keep in mind 
the basic data of the base, but only in a very mediated way. It was Sir Arthur 
Eddington, I think, who said once that "Every physicist knows that his wife is 
in the end an array of atoms, but if he treats her accordingly then she will 
cease being his wife" (sorry for male suprematist language, but Eddington was 

Historic subjects, then, read the base through action within the context of 
those projects. Consciousness is not a matter of simple constatation of given 
facts. It is a matter of awareness of one's own past, present, and future. And 
it is this awareness which shapes consciousness. At the level of historic 
subjects, the mystical belief in an arm that does not exist any more expresses 
the WILL to have an arm in the future, and this will expresses the necessity of 
that arm in order to at least remain at the level of existence that the 
individual members of the collective subject share at a given moment in 

Thus, the transformations at the level of the base shape the forms in which the 
will is expressed, because that will is not an esoteric, semi-Fascist 
expression of personal desire by atomized individual subjects, it is a 
_structural fact in itself_ expressing the conditions of existence of a 
collective subject.

If, by the pervasiveness of the belief, Lou Pr alluded to my insistence in that 
Russia is still a potential nuisance (a major potential nuisance) for 
imperialists, then he is wrong. I have NEVER counted on any form of Russian 
support for my political work. But I count on the obvious fact that capitalism 
has no destiny for the Russian masses than further immiseration. We are not 
alien to that destiny. If we say "well, Russians don't count any more" and 
equate their destiny with the machinations of the ruling elites, we are giving 
support to one of the sides in the struggle.

This can also be said of my own country, in fact. Argentina is facing a very 
dark future. Yesterday, we had a general strike which froze the country. 
However, one does not need to be a Nostradamus to expect little results from 
this strike. Argentineans do still accept that formal continuity is essential, 
so that De la Rúa will keep in power (and if it is not De la Rúa, we shall have 
another member of the same pro-imperialist crew). Dollarisation is beginning to 
appear as a very serious menace: the vice-Minister of Economy has been 
replaced, and Miguel Kiguel(1), the "new" one is a pro-dollarisation 
fundamentalist who already acted with Minister Roque Fernández under Menem. The 
success of the strike was not equated by a general mobilisation of people the 
country over. The general feeling is that "for the time being, there's not much 
that can be done".  People are going to wait for the next Presidentials (2003) 
where in my opinion nothing too serious will happen, because the political 
forces of revolution will still be under construction.

And so on.

Should we say that "Argentina is dead", then? Not me. What I do is to act in 
politics, to give my point of view once and again, to organise around basic 
principles of democracy within the national front, to try to have people leap 
upwards from rage towards determination. Because I know that when Argentineans 
say "how can this be happening in such a rich country", which is a lie because 
Argentina is not a rich country any more, they are not believing that they have 
an arm that they have lost. They are expressing their will to build a new arm 
out of our current miseries. And that faith, not my full knowledge of the 
details of Argentinean economics, is what sets me on the side of revolution.

N  O T E S

(1) Yes, my dear Jewish comrades, we have had a Daniel Marx and now a "Kigl" 
steering the negotiations between this country and the IMF, isn't that a 
wonderful present to right-wing, anti-Semitic, "nationalists" here? can't you 
find any connection between this and some things that have happened in Russia 

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at

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